The British Columbia Triangle
Unsolved Disappearances in Canada
In the first installment of this series, we examined five mysterious disappearances which took place in the Interior Plateau of British Columbia, Canada. These cases featured in the 2019 book Missing 411: Canada, written by an American researcher named David Paulides, who believes that something very strange is happening in the wilderness of North America. In this video, we’ll examine some more disappearances from Paulides’ book which took place in the 21st Century, in a region perhaps most appropriately dubbed the “British Columbia Triangle.”
Brian Douglas Faughnan
July 12, 2002; Whistler
Thirty six years after the Clancy O’Brien case, a 35-year-old aerospace engineer and science fiction screenwriter from Montreal named Brian Douglas Faughnan vanished near the resort town of Whistler, British Columbia- the site of one of the clusters identified by David Paulides.
On July 9th, 2002, Faughnan travelled from Montreal to Vancouver. On July 11th, he prepared to embark on the “Moose Run Tour”, a circular bus tour around British Columbia and western Alberta, which would begin and end in Vancouver. The round trip was conducted by a company called Bigfoot Adventure Tours, a name which Paulides considered intriguing in light of the events that followed.
Before getting on the bus, Faughnan paid a visit to Vancouver’s Mountain Equipment Co-Op, where he asked an employee about good hiking and scrambling destinations in the Whistler area. The employee recommended Rainbow Mountain, a peak which overlooks the town’s eastern end.
The first leg of the round trip to which Faughnan committed himself took the tourists up the Sea-to-Sky Highway to Whistler. On the way, Faughnan discussed hiking trails with the tour guide. The 35-year-old engineer was an experienced hiker and mountain climber, and informed the tour operator that he planned to do some hiking during his stay in Whistler. The Montrealer seemed especially interested the 9.5-hour hike up Rainbow Mountain, which he had previously discussed with the MEC employee.
The tour bus pulled into Whistler that day, and Faughnan rented a bed at a now-defunct youth hostel called the Shoestring Lodge. At 9:57 the following morning, Faughnan departed the hostel, leaving his passport, tent, and sleeping bag behind, and informing one of his roommates that he was going to climb a peak and might not return until the following day. Security cameras indicate that the Montrealer was wearing a yellow backpack with an ice axe attached to the rear when he left the hostel.
At 10:30 a.m., Faughnan asked the Bigfoot Adventures bus driver for directions to the head of the Valley Trail, a long paved path which meanders through Whistler’s neighbourhoods, lakes, viewpoints, and picnic spots- a far tamer trail than the rugged mountain paths he seemed intent on climbing. Perhaps the engineer intended to see some of the town before embarking on his planned hike up Rainbow Mountain, or perhaps he hoped to reach the Rainbow Mountain trailhead by way of the Valley Trail.
When Faughnan finally set out on his trek, the weather in Whistler was calm and sunny. Late that night, however, heavy fog and pouring rain rolled into the Whistler area.
True to his word, Faughnan did not return to Whistler that night. When he remained absent at 8:00 a.m. on July 13th, his tour bus’s scheduled departure time, the Bigfoot Adventure Tour guide alerted the Shoestring Lodge. The hostel gave the Montrealer two extra days to return from his excursion, and when Faughnan failed to show by 3:00 p.m. on July 15th, they reported him missing to the RCMP.
The Mounties decided to search for Brian Faughnan on July 17th, after they confirmed that his family had not heard from him. Hampered by nasty weather which had pervaded the region without respite since July 12th, a search and rescue team began combing the wilderness and slopes surrounding the town on Friday, July 19th.
Brian’s older brothers, John and Steven Faughnan, flew out to Whistler and, in conjunction with the RCMP investigation, began interviewing people around town, hoping to find some clue which might lead him to their brother’s location.
The RCMP postponed their search on Saturday, July 20th, on account of prohibitive weather. They conducted a limited search on Sunday, July 21st, before deciding to terminate the operation.
Rachael Bagnall and Jonathan Jette
September 4, 2010; Pemberton
The next missing persons case in Paulides’ book which takes place in the British Columbia Triangle is the disappearance of Rachael Bagnall and Jonathan Jette, a couple who vanished near the town of Pemberton on September 4th, 2010. Interestingly, the disappearance took place in the midst of a month-long manhunt for Tyler Wright, another hiker who vanished without a trace on August 10th, 2010, on a southerly trail from Squamish to Coquitlam; whose case also appears in Paulides’ book.
Rachael Bagnall and Jonathan Jette were outdoor recreation enthusiasts who first met at a climbing gym in Vancouver. 25-year-old Rachael Bagnall was a native of the central British Columbian city of Prince George, who was studying medicine at the University of British Columbia, living with her sister in the latter’s Vancouver home. Jonathan Jette, on the other hand, was a 34-year-old from Longueuil, Quebec, who worked as an attaché in Vancouver for Quebec’s provincial government. Both were highly intelligent, in excellent physical condition, and shared a passion for backcountry adventure. As might be expected, they hit it off immediately.
In the spring of 2010, Rachael completed her third year of medical school. Rather than finish her fourth and final year immediately, she decided to spend the fall 2010 semester somewhere in South America, where she would use her medical knowledge to treat the poor. Jonathan’s work dictated that he remain in Vancouver, and so the couple reconciled themselves to a temporary long-distance relationship.
Rachael and Jonathan decided to spend Labour Day weekend, their last weekend together before Rachael’s departure, in the Cayoosh Mountains northwest of the village of Pemberton, in the heart of historic Lillooet Country. Despite that Jonathan had not completely recovered from a previous knee injury, the couple planned to spend three days tackling scrambles, and packed climbing helmets, an ice ax, a book on alpine scrambling in southwest British Columbia, and three days-worth of food in their backpacks in preparation for their adventure.
On the morning of September 4th, 2010, Jonathan picked Rachael up from her sister’s residence in his Toyota Echo and drove up the Sea-to-Sky Highway from Vancouver. At 7:42, the couple stopped at the Tim Horton’s restaurant in the town of Squamish for a coffee and hot chocolate before continuing north, driving through the town of Whistler and into Lillooet Country. After driving for about fifteen minutes beyond the village of Pemberton, they made a left turn and headed to the Valentine Lake trailhead at the southern base of Saxifrage Mountain, parking their car near a remote subdivision of the Lillooet First Nation, on the side of an obscure logging trail called the Spetch Creek Forest Service Road. From there, the couple presumably exited the vehicle and began the five hour hike to Valentine Lake, a little heart-shaped body of water nestled in the crook of Saxifrage Mountain and Cassiope Peak and a natural base camp from which they could launch their planned scrambling excursions.
The extended weekend came and went without any communication between the couple and their families. When Rachael failed to return to Vancouver on Tuesday, as planned, her sister grew alarmed. The following day, she alerted the RCMP. Two days later, the Mounties tasked with investigating the missing person’s report discovered Jonathan’s vehicle parked about a kilometer up the Spetch Creek Forest Service Road. Two empty Tim Horton’s coffee cups were plainly visible in the cup holders. Jonathan’s cell phone was found inside the vehicle, but the couple’s camping equipment was missing.
A preliminary search around the vehicle and up the trail to Valentine Lake yielded few clues as the missing couple’s location. Valentine Lake itself- a picturesque hideaway fringed by grassy, boulder-strewn slopes and subalpine forest- similarly showed no signs of recent human activity. The police did recover a pair of women’s sunglasses near Valentine Lake, but these were later proven to have belonged to an unrelated female hiker who had lost them earlier that year. In private correspondence with the operation’s lead investigator, Staff Sergeant Steve LeClair of the Whistler-Pemberton RCMP Detachment, David Paulides learned that the Mounties found neither the couple’s cookware nor any of their old campsites during their search. Hoping to follow the couple’s trail into the mountains, the RCMP brought bloodhounds to the site of the abandoned vehicle. Bizarrely, the tracking dogs did not pick up a scent.
The Mounties put out a call for volunteers, and in no time dozens of search and rescue teams from Pemberton, Whistler, Vancouver Island, and the lower Fraser Valley were combing the Cayoosh Mountains for any sign of the missing scramblers. Initially hampered by rain and heavy cloud cover, three helicopters eventually took to the skies to supplement the search effort. Despite a thorough 10-day search comprising 2,000 man-hours, no clues as to Jonathan and Rachael’s whereabouts were recovered. Staff Sergeant LeClair would later tell Alison Taylor of Whistler’s Pique Newsmagazine, who wrote about the case in September 2011, that the search for Jonathan Jette and Rachael Bagnall was “the first time he [had] been unable to find someone in the backcountry. And a lot of people get lost around Whistler”. Dave Steers, who led the search and rescue team from Pemberton, later expressed his opinion that if Jonathan and Rachael had become lost in the mountains or on the trail to Valentine Lake, they would have easily found their way back to civilization. “There’s not a lot of ways to go wrong,” he told Taylor. “That’s what was so perplexing about the whole thing. Where could they have gone wrong?”
Following the frustrating conclusion of the first search and rescue operation, Jonathan and Rachael’s families hired professional mountain guides- including three-time Everest veteran John Furneaux, alpine guide Patrick Delaney, and Whistler-based hiking guide Eric Vezeau – to search crevasses and other inaccessible locations on the slopes of Saxifrage and Cassiope into which the couple could have potentially fallen or become trapped. These secondary search operations proved fruitless.
In the months that followed their first search and rescue operation, the RCMP received several tantalizing tips. One hiker who heard about Jonathan and Rachael’s disappearance reported that he had seen smoke on a heavily-wooded cliff overlooking Peq Creek, on the southern slopes of Cassiope Peak, during the weekend in which the missing couple would have been camping. The police followed up on this potential lead but found nothing of interest.
In December 2010, a Lillooet Indian man from the native community of Mount Currie, located about five miles southwest of Valentine Lake, went out to chop firewood when he spotted unusual bird activity- perhaps an abnormal profusion of crows, ravens, or other carrion birds- on Cassiope Peak. After waiting for the snow to clear, an RCMP team investigated the site of the activity and found nothing of interest.
In 2011, Rachael Bagnall’s family erected a wooden cross on the shores of Valentine Lake as a memorial for the missing couple.
The family of Jonathan Jette has never given up hope that their son and his girlfriend will be found, in one form or another, although some of them suspect the couple fell victim to foul play. Every fall, Jonathan’s younger brother, Miguel, and his father, Jean-Guy, travel from their home in Montreal, Quebec, to hike the mountains in which Jonathan and Rachael vanished. Jonathan’s mother, Lise Grenier, maintains and regularly posts on a Facebook page dedicated to finding the missing couple, chronicling the ongoing search effort and sharing any new developments in the case. Lise, who visited the site of the disappearance in the summer of 2011, stated that she “felt Jonathan’s presence” on the road on which his car was parked but not at Valentine Lake, and expressed her belief that whatever befell Jonathan and Rachael happened at the beginning or end of their trip.
Both the RCMP, which operated under the direction of Staff Sergeant Steve LeClair until his retirement in June 2016, and members of the local Lillooet First Nation continue to search for the missing hikers from time to time. In a 2013 article for the Whistler-based newspaper Question, Miguel Jette expressed his gratitude for the support his family has received from the Lillooet Nation, declaring that the area natives “know the mountain inside and out. They’ve even gone on a few day and multi-day hikes themselves searching for clues. They have been amazingly supportive [and] when they have ideas, they send us notes.”
In the fall of 2018, a member of the Lillooet Nation discovered shreds of men’s clothing near the mouth of Peq Creek, not far from a pond called Eddy Lake. Cadaver dogs with the ability to locate old or buried human bones were brought to the scene but were unable to find a scent. Police later determined that the clothes did not belong to Jonathan.
In February 2019, another Lillooet man found bones on the mountain, which were later determined to belong to an animal.
“I’ve read too many search and rescue reports to not know that there is something very wrong with this case,” David Paulides wrote in his summary of the Jette-Bagnall disappearance. “The parents have stated that they believe there may be foul play involved in the disappearance. They have also questioned whether their children are actually still in the area.”
To this day, no shred of evidence connected with the disappearance of Jonathan Jette and Rachael Bagnall has ever been found.
Darcy Brian Turner
June 20, 2011; Stein Valley Park
On June 4th, 2011, exactly nine months after Jonathan Jette and Rachael Bagnall’s disappearance, an experienced, physically fit, 55-year-old Metis outdoorsman named Darcy Brian Turner headed into the Stein River Valley on a “vision quest”, an annual solo wilderness retreat that he had made for the last five years. He arranged for a friend to pick him up on June 19th. He was wearing a blue and black jacket, an orange t-shirt, khaki pants, a blue-grey baseball cap, and hiking boots, and was believed to have been carrying a blue backpack to which a sleeping bag and a blue tarp were attached.
The Stein River is a tributary of the Fraser River which empties into the latter about four miles north of the town of Lytton. Its headwaters are located about 21 miles (34 kilometres) southeast of Cassiope Peak, near which Jonathan Jette and Rachael Bagnall disappeared. The river owes its name to an old Thompson Indian word meaning “hidden place”- a reference to the fact that the mouth of the Stein is not very conspicuous when viewed from the Fraser. Thirteen cliffs that flank the Stein River and its canyon are ornamented with ancient Indian pictographs painted in red ochre, which some members of the Thompson First Nation consider sacred. Members of the Thompson Indian band at Lytton have historically attempted to prevent outside intrusion into the Stein Valley, opposing various movements to construct roads through the region or log the pine forests and cedar groves that characterize it. Due in part to their objections, the entire Stein River watershed was designated the Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Heritage Park, a protected natural area managed by both the Lytton First Nation and BC Parks.
When Darcy Brian Turner failed to appear at the appointed rendezvous on June 19th, the friend who had agreed to pick him up reported his disappearance to the RCMP. The Mounties led a 35-man team of Lytton volunteers in a search for the missing vision quester. The six-day manhunt was supplemented by two helicopters, a search dog team, and members of the Lytton First Nation.
On June 24th, 2011, search and rescue workers discovered a pair of boot prints which they suspected had been left by Turner. The area surrounding the tracks was subsequently subjected to a rigorous search which failed to produce any clues as to the location of the missing man. To this day, the fate of Darcy Brian Turner remains a mystery.
March 17, 2012; Whistler
The next case in Paulides’ book which takes place in the British Columbia Triangle is that of David Christian, an Irish traveler who disappeared in the resort town of Whistler on March 17th, 2012.
All who knew 27-year-old David Christian described him as exceptionally friendly and happy. Several newspaper, magazine, and blog articles described the 6’3’’, 210-pound globetrotter as a “gentle giant”.
Back in 2008, the outgoing Irishman had completed his graduate degree in bioinformatics, a field of study involving computer analysis and interpretation of large and complex sets of biological data. That June, he moved from Dublin to Toronto, Ontario, with his close friend, Matt Walsh. After a few years in Hogtown, the friends relocated to Whistler, B.C., where they found management positions at the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort. Christian and Walsh arrived in Whistler just in time for the start of the 2011/2012 ski season.
On the evening of Saturday, March 17th, 2012, when the ski season was beginning to wind down, David Christian and a few of his friends went out for food and drinks at Merlin’s Bar and Grill, located at the base of Blackcomb Mountain in Whistler’s Upper Village. In his book, David Paulides failed to make the connection that March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day, a night on which most 27-year-old Irishmen, if duty permits, like to enjoy a pint or twelve at the local pub.
At 11:30 that evening, David bid his friends goodnight and left the bar. According to Paulides, who likely acquired this bit of information from an article in Whistler’s Pique Newsmagazine, the Irishman planned to fly to Vancouver the following morning to attend Sunday Mass. This is a curious allegation; assuming that Christian was Catholic, as most religious Dubliners are, he could have attended Catholic Mass in Whistler or nearby Squamish. Perhaps, for a patriotic Irishman like David Christian, the feast day of Ireland’s patron said warranted a trip to Vancouver’s St. Patrick’s Church or magnificent Holy Rosary Cathedral.
At 2:30 a.m., Christian sent a text to one of his friends. The contents of the text have never been disclosed, although police have stated that it indicates that Christian was still alive at the time the message was sent.
David Christian never made it to Mass as he had planned, and was reported missing on Monday morning when he did not show up for work. Whistler RCMP used tracking dogs, helicopters, search and rescue volunteers, and the Whistler-Blackcomb ski patrol in their subsequent search for the missing Irishman, which was headed by the same Staff Sergeant Steve LeClair who handled the Jette-Bagnall case.
Although the search and rescue operation continued throughout Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, it was a golfer unaffiliated with the operation who discovered the first trace of David Christian. On Wednesday afternoon, the anonymous sportsman found the Irishman’s blue skater shoes lying on the fifteenth green of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club, a course located a two minutes’ drive up Blackcomb Way from the luxury 5-star hotel for which it is named. The course’s fifteenth green lies near the edge of a pond called Lost Lake, from which it is separated by about 240 metres (260 yards) of forest. The golfer informed the police, and the search and rescue team directed its attention towards the golf course. About 240 metres (260 yards) south of the shoes, the Mounties discovered Christian’s lifeless body floating face-down in Horstman Creek. There appeared to be no signs of foul play.
A subsequent autopsy determined that the 27-year-old had likely died of hypothermia. Police suspected that Christian had become disoriented on his way back from the bar, boarded the wrong bus, took the wrong trail, and removed his shoes before wandering into Horstman Creek. Although Paulides claimed to have found “no article describing any toxicological results from the autopsy,” two articles from the blog Footprints At the River’s Edge and Whistler’s Pique Newsmagazine, respectively, claim that a coroner’s report considered acute alcohol intoxication “a contributing factor in [Christian’s] death.”
June 5, 2015; Lindeman Lake
On Friday, June 5th, 2015, 20-year-old Sakhjeet Saggu of Surrey, British Columbia, who had just graduated from Enver Creek Secondary School, drove east with a few friends up the Fraser Valley and into Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park. The friends were planning to spend the day hiking the Lindeman-Greendrop Trail, a moderately difficult 3.5-kilometre path through old-growth cedar, fir, and hemlock forest. The trail begins beside a parking lot off the Chilliwack Lake Road and follows a stream called Post Creek north to the beautiful, turquoise Lindeman Lake. Those desirous of a more rigorous hike can follow the trail’s six kilometer extension to Greendrop Lake.
Saggu decided to jog ahead of his friends up the trail. When his friends arrived at Lindeman Lake, the 20-year-old was nowhere to be seen. Saggu’s companions searched the lake’s vicinity and the trail from the parking lot for their missing friend but were unable to find any trace of him. They continued their search until 4:00 in the morning, unwilling to leave the area without Saggu, and unable to call for help due to the poor cell phone reception in that part of the Cheam Mountains. After dawn, the friends encountered another hiker and informed him of their predicament. The man returned to his vehicle and drove until he got reception, whereupon he reported Saggu’s disappearance to the RCMP.
A search and rescue team from the nearby city of Chilliwack arrived at Lindeman Lake within a few hours and searched the area until dark. The team’s spokesperson, Doug Fraser, made several television appearances in which he expressed his astonishment that his team had not yet found the missing hiker. An article for CBC: British Columbia, for example, quoted him as having said, “All of this was really, really strange. Typically when we get called into this area, within an hour or two we’ve located the missing hiker… It’s just really difficult to get lost in the area. It’s such a well-marked, well-worn trail with lots of hikers on it, so it’s very strange that nobody had seen this individual.”
The search resumed the following morning, later bolstered by an RCMP helicopter. At 2:00 in the afternoon, while flying over the trail from Lindeman Lake to Greendrop Lake, the helicopter pilot spotted an inanimate human body lying in a graded boulder field a good distance from the trail. The body proved to be the corpse of Sukhjeet Saggu.
According to an article in the June 7th, 2015 issue of Vancouver’s Vancity Buzz, “at this time, the cause of death has not been released, but circumstances of the disappearance have been deemed highly unusual as he was found away from the meeting point with his friends- far away from the lake and any trail.”
In a June 7th, 2015 article published by the CBC, Doug Fraser is quoted as having said, “It was very, very strange and difficult to explain why he ended up where he did.” The article went on to state that the boulder field on which Saggu’s body was discovered lies at a significantly higher elevation than Lindeman Lake, and stressed that it lay “a fair distance from the trail”. He later expressed his opinion that Saggu’s injuries seemed consistent with a fall, but was unsure of whether the hiker had fallen from a cliff which overlooks the sprawling boulder field or had slipped and tumbled down the boulder field itself.
In his chapter on the case of Sukhjeet Saggu, Paulides wrote, “I searched for hours to see if the British Columbia Coroner’s Service ever released a cause of death; I could not locate one.” In fact, in the June 8th, 2015 Information Bulletin of the B.C. Coroner’s Service, representative Liana Wright wrote that 20-year-old Sukhjeet Saggu “died after suffering an accidental fall while hiking”. The brief report also included the cryptic sentence, “the B.C. Coroners Service continues to investigate this death.” No follow-up reports have yet been published by the office.
In a commentary on the case of Sukhjeet Saggu, Paulides wrote, “I receive thousands of emails a year. Many readers send me their thoughts and ideas about cases. One of the most common responses I get is that many of the victims [appear to have been] dropped into their positions.”
July 19, 2016; Salmon Arm
In his introduction to the disappearance of Deanna Wertz, the next person to mysteriously vanish in the British Columbia Triangle, David Paulides confessed that he almost dismissed the case on account of its possible association with the contemporaneous disappearances of two other women from the same tiny corner of the Interior Plateau, one of whom lived on the same rural road as Wertz. “The Mounties stated that the cases were not related,” he wrote, “and it would appear they are treating [the other two cases as crimes] and the Wertz case as a missing person.”
46-year-old Deanna Wertz lived with her husband on Yankee Flats Road, a rural backroad south of the city of Salmon Arm. She was of both First Nations and German ancestry. “This is important to our research,” Paulides wrote on the subject of Wertz’ heritage, “as an unusually large number of Germans seem to go missing.”
In mid-July, 2016, Deanna Wertz was said to be in good spirits. According to her sister, Dawn Kyle, who spoke with her on the phone on July 18th, “she was fine, she was great, she was happy. We were talking about seeing each other soon.” Another of her sisters, named Alanna Wertz, had similarly spoken with her several days earlier. “We were making plans for a visit,” she said. “She sounded happy and wanted to meet her nieces.”
On the morning of July 19th, 2016, as he prepared to leave for work, Deanna’s husband asked his wife what she was going to do that day. Deanna replied that she planned to take a long hike in the woods behind their residence, one of her favourite pastimes. After her husband left the house, Deanna chatted with a few of her friends on the phone and affirmed her plan to head out for a hike into the high hills later that day.
When his shift was over, Mr. Wertz returned home, and was greeted at the door by the family dog. Deanna was nowhere to be seen. Mr. Wertz was immediately overcome by the gut-churning sensation that something was amiss, but was less troubled by his wife’s absence than by the dog’s presence; although it was not unusual for Deanna to spend an entire day hiking, she typically brought her dog along with her on her backcountry excursions.
When Deanna had not returned home by evening, Mr. Wertz called several family members and friends to see if they had any idea where she might be, but none of them had heard from her since that morning. He waited until July 22nd before reporting Deanna’s disappearance to the police.
The Mounties launched a huge seven-day search for Deanna, employing SAR ground teams, all-terrain vehicles, RCMP service dogs, helicopters, and drones in their examination and re-examination of eight square kilometres of wilderness behind the Wertz residence. They also searched and up and down roads and creeks along which Deanna was suspected to have hiked. The ground and air search teams found no sign of the missing woman, and the police canines never found a scent trail.
Curiously, on April 30th, 2016, less than three months earlier, a woman named Ashley Simpson had disappeared from her own rural property just two doors down Yankee Flats Road from the Wertz residence. Many of the search and rescue personnel who searched for Deanna Wertz had also participated in the search for Ashley Simpson. Even more incredibly, Ashley Simpson was the second woman to go missing from that quiet country neighbourhood in 2016; on February 22nd, about two months before Ashley’s disappearance, a Cree woman named Caitlin Potts, who lived in the tiny city of Enderby, located about 10 miles (16 kilometres) west of Yankee Flats Road, had also vanished without a trace, although it is believed that Caitlin had been trying to hitchhike from the southern Okanagan city of Kelowna to Calgary, Alberta, at the time of her disappearance. In an effort to address speculation that Deanna Wertz’s disappearance might have some connection with the vanishings of Caitlin Potts and Ashley Simpson, both of which the RCMP considered suspicious, RCMP media relations officer, Corporal Dan Moskaluk, told reporters in the summer of 2016 that “at this time, RCMP investigators do not suspect foul play is involved in Deanna Wertz’ disappearance… Certainly, it’s an anomaly to have three women go missing in such a small community, but not unheard of.”
Within fourteen months following the disappearance of Deanna Wertz, two more women would vanish from northern Okanagan country. Although RCMP have stated that they have no evidence indicating that the five proximate missing persons cases are connected, local media groups and armchair detectives have indirectly implicated a certain suspect in the disappearances. We’ll take a closer look at the five missing women of northern Okanagan later on in this series.
August 14, 2016; Baby Munday Peak
Incredibly, the next missing person in the B.C. Triangle whom Paulides included in his book is a man named Gurdeep ‘Gordon’ Sagoo, who has no relation to Sukhjeet Saggu, and who disappeared in the Cheam Mountains just one ridge across from Lindeman Lake, a mere eight miles northwest of the site of Sukhjeet’s mysterious death.
“I don’t think I’ve ever written about someone who went through such a profound life change as Gordon Sagoo did,” Paulides wrote in his introduction to the case. When he was in his forties, an unhealthy and overweight Sagoo, who hailed from North Delta in the Greater Vancouver area, decided to turn his life around. He got in shape, took up running, and eventually became an outstanding trail runner. He transformed his new passion for fitness into a full-time career, leaving his job as general manager of a sign manufacturing company in Vancouver to become a personal trainer and life coach.
On Sunday, August 14th, 2016, 50-year-old Gordon Sagoo decided to hike in the Cheam Range, just east of Chilliwack, with his friend, Sherril Budai, and another hiker. The trio hoped to summit Baby Munday Peak, one of four adjacent peaks collectively referred to as the “Four Sisters”, the most iconic sister being the westerly Mount Cheam which overlooks Chilliwack.
During the hike, Sagoo pulled ahead of the rest of the group, telling his companions that he wanted to summit another peak alone, and promising to meet them at a prearranged rendezvous location before returning with them to the trailhead. Both hikers later spotted Sagoo in the distance atop another peak, and one of them later watched him begin his descent down the mountain, laden with three litres of water in his backpack.
When the trail runner did not show up at the rendezvous location at the end of the day, Budai and her companion alerted the RCMP in Chilliwack. The Chilliwack search and rescue squad, upper Fraser Valley RCMP officers, and a team of tracking dogs headed to the site of Sagoo’s disappearance and began to comb the mountainside for the missing hiker.
The following day, RCMP planes and helicopters circled the Four Sisters, its spotters scanning the slopes for any sign of Sagoo. On Tuesday, August 16th, the mission was taken up by several additional search and rescue teams from across the Greater Vancouver area.
The search and rescue operation continued throughout the weekend, supplemented by a drone and a helicopter equipped with an infrared camera. Footage taken by the cameras attached to these aerial crafts was diligently reviewed throughout the weekend, but neither visual evidence of the missing hiker nor a thermal signature indicating his presence could be found.
“The search was both extensive and comprehensive in its execution,” the Chilliwack Search and Rescue unit stated in a press release. Gordon Sagoo’s family similarly expressed their admiration for the team’s work, stating that their “courageous and tireless efforts have been nothing short of remarkable.”
On Monday, August 22nd, eight days after Sagoo’s disappearance, the RCMP decided to scale back the search. Undaunted, the missing hiker’s family began to raise money through a crowdfunding campaign with which they planned to hire private mountain guides to continue the search for the lost trail runner. Despite their subsequent efforts, no trace of Gordon Sagoo has ever been found, and his ultimate fate remains a mystery.
“When you review the facts of this case,” Paulides wrote in a summary of Sagoo’s disappearance, “the classic elements are present. Gordon is fine until there is a separation point between him and his friends. Something very unusual happened that we might never understand.”
Alison Leanne Raspa
November 23, 2017; Whistler
The last missing person in the British Columbia Triangle on David Paulides’ list is Alison Leanne Raspa, a 25-year-old Australian woman who left Perth in May 2017 to take a job at the Westin Resort and Spa, a luxury hotel in Whistler Upper Village.
On the evening of Thursday, November 22nd, 2017, Raspa went for drinks with some friends at the Three Below Restaurant and Lounge in downtown Whistler. At 11:30 p.m., after a few hours of socializing, Raspa decided to head home. According to Paulides, her friends would later tell police that she was not intoxicated at the time of her departure.
Raspa caught a bus, which dropped her off at the junction of Lake Placid Road and the Sea-to-Sky Highway, in a district called Whistler Creek, located about five kilometres southwest of the bar. Several hours later, at 1:15 a.m., Raspa sent a text to a friend in which she declared that she was lost. The temperature in Whistler at that time of night was about 6-8oC (43-46oF).
When Alison Raspa did not show up for work on Friday morning, her friends went to her room to check on her. Finding that she was missing, they reported her disappearance to the local RCMP.
The Mounties tracked Raspa’s cellphone and found it lying in Alpha Lake Park, a small green area and lakeside beach located one block southwest of the missing woman’s last known location, at the edge of the woods. Police searched the area surrounding Alpha Lake, a small body of water less than a half mile long and about a tenth of a mile wide, on the northeastern shores of which Alpha Lake Park lies, and found the Australian’s backpack and wallet in a field skirting its northern shore. Earlier that morning, the police later learned, a passerby had found Alison’s jacket lying in the same field in which her wallet and backpack were found.
Considering that Raspa appeared to have been discarding her clothing and accessories on the night of her disappearance, the RCMP theorized that the 25-year-old had developed hypothermia, a dangerous drop in body temperature which can cause disorientation and confusion. People who suffer from moderate to severe hypothermia sometimes undress, overcome by a paradoxical sensation of extreme warmth. Suspecting that a hypothermic Raspa may have wandered into Alpha Lake in her delirium, the police searched the water thoroughly, employing both divers and sonar scanners in their effort to locate and recover her body. The operation proved fruitless.
In addition to searching the lake, the RCMP led a massive search and rescue operation throughout the surrounding wilderness. Hundreds of pedestrian volunteers and a helicopter scoured the nearby woods and the vicinity of Alpha Lake for two weeks but were unable to find any trace of the missing Australian. Raspa’s mother and brother, who had flown in from Australia to assist the operation, continued to look for Alison long after the RCMP terminated their search. Their efforts were also in vain; after weeks of searching, they returned to Perth empty-handed.
On the evening of Friday, March 16th, 2018, nearly four months after Raspa’s disappearance, a local resident stumbled upon the 25-year-old’s half-frozen corpse floating in the water at the northern edge of Alpha Lake- an area that the RCMP had thoroughly searched. “I’m still trying to work it out in my head,” said Raspa’s friend, Brit Hill, in a media interview following this bizarre development, “and it just doesn’t make sense.”
In a commentary on the case, David Paulides wrote, “One of the critical profile points I have documented hundreds of times is bodies being found in a location that has been previously searched. I have never alleged that SAR teams had not done a thorough job, quite the contrary. All indicators are that the body was never in the location when searchers were looking. In my other books, bodies have been found in places that were searched dozens of times.”
Paulides also pointed out that, in many of the cases he has documented, including that of Alison Raspa, as well as the disappearance of Jonathan Jette and Rachael Bagnall, the victims left their cell phones behind, suggesting that “it’s almost as though they need to separate themselves from the [phone’s] tracking ability.”
In March 2020, a year after the publication of Paulides’ book, Heidi Havdale of the B.C. Coroner’s Office released a report in which she expressed her opinion that Raspa probably “intended to end her life” on the night of November 23rd, 2017, citing several sources, some of them arguably weak and unconvincing, to support her claim. Alison’s mother and brother, who were interviewed in Whistler back in 2017, had told reporters that Alison’s coworkers had informed them that the 25-year-old had been upset about something work-related on the day of her disappearance. Witnesses who saw Raspa at the bar on the night of November 23rd recalled seeing her tearful and distraught. A staff member of the Three Below Restaurant and Lounge told police that Raspa had arrived at the establishment alone, and complained to her that she “had no friends in Whistler, and her boyfriend had left and gone back to Australia.” Police reviewed the text messages that she sent on the day of her disappearance and opined that they “support feelings of despondency.” Lastly, a toxicological analysis of Raspa’s body found elevated but non-lethal concentrations of alcohol and cold medication in the 25-year-old’s system. According to Haydale, it is reasonable to assume that Raspa, after becoming lost, removed her wallet and cell phone from her pockets and intentionally waded into Alpha Lake Park to die of hypothermia. In the opinion of this author, at least, Haydale’s analysis is far from conclusive. Whatever the case, the true nature of Alison Raspa’s death may never be known with absolute certainty.
Not every disappearance in the British Columbia Triangle which accords with Paulides’ profile points is entirely inexplicable. Little Betty Jean Masters, for example, who disappeared from Red Lake in the summer of 1960, could conceivably have been carried off by a cougar. The tragic case of David Christian is almost certainly that of a young man who partied too hard on St. Patrick’s Day, got lost on his way home, and died of hypothermia. Alison Raspa, in a spell of muddled passion, may have taken a fatal dip in frigid Alpha Lake. And outdoorsmen like Wallace Marr, Brian Faughnan, and Darcy Turner may have suffered lethal accidents in the wilderness, leaving their bodies concealed by impossibly dense foliage or trapped in remote hideaways inaccessible to all but the most skilled mountaineers.
A few of the cases which Paulides documented, however, are truly baffling. The only remotely rational explanations for the vanishing of Clancy O’Brien, for example, considering the remoteness of the location in which he disappeared, are that the nine-year-old fell victim to some natural predator which carried his body miles away, leaving neither visual nor olfactory evidence of its attack and progression through the wilderness; or that the hundreds of searchers who scoured the Green Lake wilderness for weeks following his disappearance somehow failed to find his remains. Similarly, the only remotely reasonable explanations for the disappearance of Jonathan Jette and Rachael Bagnall, considering the thoroughness of the search and rescue operations which their vanishing engendered, are that the couple lie entombed beneath a hypothetical rockslide for the existence of which there is neither physical nor spectatorial evidence; or that they were abducted or murdered in a manner so clean and professional that their assailant left no evidence of his crime. For these baffling cases for which no conventional explanations seem satisfactory, we have no choice but to look to the unconventional for answers.
As mentioned in the first part of this series, every disappearance in the British Columbia Triangle took place within the traditional territory of the Thompson, Lillooet, and Shuswap First Nations- all Interior Salish tribes. Interestingly, these three ethnocultural groups, who have lived in the British Columbian Interior for countless generations and know their ancestral land as well as any man knows his own backyard, share a number of disturbing legends which offer chilling explanations for the unusual deaths and disappearances that sometimes take place throughout their territories.
We’ll explore some of these eerie native legends next week, in the third installment of this six-part series on the British Columbia Triangle.
Brian Douglas Faughnan
Camping and Bus Tours Keep Canada Affordable, by Lucy Izon in the June 18, 2000 issue of the Las Angeles Times
Family, Friends Continue Search for Missing Hiker, by Alison Taylor in the July 25th, 2002 issue of Pique Newsmagazine (Whistler)
In the Beartooth Range, It’s Disappearance Season, by Timothy Egan in the October 3, 2005 issue of the New York Times
Scrambling Accidents, in CoastBackcountry.com
Jonathan Jette and Rachael Bagnall
Few Clues to Aid Police and Volunteers as Search for Missing Hikers Ramps Up: Couple Only Packed Food for Two or Three Days but Has Been Missing for More Than a Week, in the February 14, 2010 issue of the Vancouver Sun
Missing in the Backcountry: Jonathan Jette, Rachael Bagnall, and Others Remain Lost in the Mountains, by Alison Taylor in the September 1st, 2011 issue of Pique Newsmagazine
RCMP Search for Hikers Likely to Resume: Life Like a ‘Bad Dream’ for Mother of Missing Vancouver Man, by Eric MacKenzie in the April 26, 2012 issue of the newspaper Question (Whistler, British Columbia)
Family Resumes Search for Missing Hikers: Still No Evidence of Jette, Bagnall Three Years After Disappearance, by Eric MacKenzie in the September 11, 2013 issue of the newspaper Question (Whistler, British Columbia)
Search for Missing Hikers Turns Up No Clues Once Again, by Brandon Barrett in the November 6, 2013 issue of Pique Newsmagazine
Jonathan Jette and Rachel Bagnall Facebook Page, maintained by Lis Grenier
Darcy Brian Turner
Stein Valley, UNESCO.org
Stein Valley: Hiker Still Missing Despite Mass Hunt, in the June 27, 2011 issue of The Province (British Columbia)
Seven Years Since Lytton Man Went Missing During Vision Quest, by Ashley Legassic in the May 10, 2018 issue of the Kamloops News
Friends and Family Mourn Passing of David Christian: 27-Year-Old Remembered as a Devoted Son and a Big Brother to His Friends, by Andrew Mitchen in the March 28, 2012 issue of the Pique Magazine (Whistler, BC)
03/17/12: David Christian, 27, Whistler, BC, Canada, in the April 27, 2012 entry in FootprintsAtTheRiversEdge.Blogspot.com
Hiker Found Dead After Search Near Chilliwack, B.C., by Rafferty Baker in the June 7, 2015 issue of CBC News: British Columbia
BC Coroners Service Identifies Hiker, by Liana Wright in the June 8, 2015 Information Bulletin of the BC Coroners Service
20-Year-Old Hiker Found Dead Near Chilliwack Lake, in the December 19, 2017 issue of the Daily Hive (Vancouver)
Walking for Missing Women, by Martha Wickett in the May 22, 2017 issue of the Salmon Arm Observer
RCMP Continue Search for Missing Enderby Woman, in the August 18, 2016 issue of the Salmon Arm Observer
‘She Just Disappeared’: Family of Missing North Okanagan Woman Searching for Answers, by Charlotte Helston in the Vernon News
‘Not a Single Answer or Clue’ in Case of North Okanagan Woman Who Went for a Hike and Never Returned, by Charlotte Helston in the Vernon News
Family of Missing Hiker Hope for Happy Ending as Search Enters Week 2, in the August 21st, 2016 issue of CTV News: Vancouver
Chilliwack SAR Scales Back Search for Hiker Near Bridal Falls, by Don Lehn in the August 22, 2016 issue of the Fraser Valley News
Search Suspended for Hiker Missing Near Chilliwack, by Jessica Peters in the August 22, 2016 issue of the North Delta Reporter (North Delta, Greater Vancouver)
RCMP Issue New Public Appeal to Find Hiker Lost Near Chilliwack, in the October 5th, 2016 issue of the Chilliwack Progress
Search Continues Near Chilliwack for Missing Hiker Gordon Sagoo, by Gian-Paolo Mendoze in the August 17, 2016 issue of CBC News: British Columbia
Alison Leanna Raspa
New Clues in Mysterious Case of Australian Backpacker Missing At Whistler: Disturbing Rumours are Circulating Within a Canadian Ski Resort Where Young Australian Backpacker Alison Raspa Vanished 12 Days Ago, by Marie O’Neill in the December 6, 2017 issue of New.com.Au
Remains of Australian Woman Missing Since November Found in Whistler, by Sean Boynton in the March 19, 2018 issue of Global News: Canada
Cause of Australian Woman’s Tragic Death at Ski Resort Revealed, by Josh Dutton in the March 10, 2020 issue of Yahoo News
Woman Found in Whistler, BC Lake Suffered From Depression and Committed Suicide, Coroner Rules, in the March 11, 2020 issue of SnowBrains.com